Friday, June 10, 2016

How I got from there to here.

I recently was at a party and I started to have a theology conversation with a friend of mine.

I realized that while I thought a lot about my beliefs, I've never actually coherently written them down anywhere.

Walking way from the church and up the side of a mountain!

I'd like to say that I was a skeptic from the beginning, but it wasn't the case.. I took it all at face value and didn't really think that hard about it.  I think part of that has to do with being essentially born into a religion.  Church was just something that you did.  I sang the songs and said the prayers and believed, what else was there.  I managed to even get confirmed without reading the bible. So, I did what any good Christian would do and sat down at either sixteen or seventeen and tried to read the bible.  Whoops...  While more than twenty years ago, I do recollect that I couldn't get through it.

That as the first small crack in my faith.  At that point, with my life barreling along at full speed, I simply decided to stop going to church. I honestly stopped thinking about it.

While I'd always been an avid hiker, I started hiking in the mountains more, it became my church. When I got stressed, when the world was too much, I put on my boots, grabbed my pack and hit the trail.  I've realized this all in hindsight mind you.  About that time, I somewhere along way I made the cognitive jump to paganism.  I suppose if you find yourself out meditating on the top of a mountain, nobody ever heard of, it's bound to happen.  Somewhere along the way I stumbled across a copy of one of Scott Cunningham's book and called myself a wiccan for a while.

I'd like to apologize to anybody who was out hiking in the Pemigewassett wilderness between 1997 and 2005 who ran into an unwashed, unshaven hippy finding himself in the woods, it was a phase man...

As I drifted spiritually, I found that I had to keep thinking harder about things, but with what time? I managed to get a real job, and started going to school nights.  At this point, I was forced to take a philosophy class.  At the time, I didn't really impinge on my thinking, I was in head down, get it done mode of college.  I could see the brass ring and I was getting seriously sick of being on the carousel.

However, it tickled some small part of my hind brain.  So at this point, my story somewhat pauses.

I met a girl and got married, bought a house and had a kid. I hiked in the woods, I lit my candles, things just worked out.  Though I drifted from the Wiccan stuff and just kept on meditating and with a somewhat reduced cognitive load I could start thinking again.  It's one thing to meditate to push out the stray thoughts... It's entirely another thing to meditate and let the mind wander.

In my head though, I never pushed out all the dogma I'd been collecting along the way, I just kept putting in boxes and hiding those boxes in the nooks. I never stopped believing in those things, I just decided those things weren't for me.

Cancer, death and the blowing up of all my beliefs, a seminal five minutes.

It's it great how far you can get with ignorance!  My life continued to bump along merrily.  Though I've now come to realize life can sometimes be like a car crash... It's all good until holy shit, it all goes oh so wrong.

I found myself standing in a hallway after being told my daughter had cancer.  The doctors were in with her and they'd asked me to politely leave the room while they put her through a CT scan, radiation and all that.

I went into the hallway and seriously lost my shit for about five minutes. I consider this a seminal moment in my life.  I've always been a tenacious son of a bitch, but in that moment some element of me simply snapped.  I walked out of the CT room a boy and returned a man.

During the next six months, many things happened to me... some big some small but formative all the same.

One of the first things that happened to me was the number of people who came up to me and exclaimed loudly that our daughter was saved through god's grace.  This to me, rang hallow. It made me think, and it made me question all the things I had assumed.

One of the ways that I dealt with the stress of this situation was to write a journal.  Mind you, not something even as half as crappy as this piece of crap is... way crappier!

The question I wrote down was simply "If my daughter had been born a hundred years ago, my daughter would be dead.  Where would god's grace be then?"  I wrote many more questions like that.

Around this time, I found myself at a funeral for a young child.  I'm convinced there are few things in the world as shitty as a funeral for a child.

That was a tipping point for me.  To me it seemed suddenly obvious. I got in the car after the funeral and simply thought "No loving god would let that happen."  I realized in that moment if there was a god it was either impotent or malicious.  It either could do nothing or chose to do nothing. I then had a further thought.. Or simply didn't exist.

I went off and read a lot more.  Socrates, Hume, Sagan, Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris.

Where does this land me?  At the momemt, here I guess.  A humanist and Atheist.

Am I as comfortable mentally as I once was? No.

I now see all religion as a human enterprise.  At it's most benign it simply cushions the blow.  At it's worst it gives license to people to do terrible things.  But at the bottom of it, it's all a lie and a con.